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Vice-Chancellor message on diversity and inclusion

David Bell

Sir David Bell KCB, Vice-Chancellor

Dear Colleague,

I want to update you on the action that the University Executive Board is taking to create a more inclusive and diverse environment for students and staff at all levels of the University.

The annual 2013/14 Equality & Diversity Information Report in January showed steady progress, with some pockets of excellent work at school and department-levels. But as an institution overall, we must be making better and faster progress.

The lack of diversity at the top of universities is an issue across higher education, not a Reading-only problem. I am honest enough to accept, however, that an all-male, all-white University Executive Board sends out an unhelpful message about our values and ambition.

There is a risk in complacency - that our rich heritage in creating the first female professor, Edith Morley, somehow fireproofs us from criticism. It does not. It is sobering that while the private sector has led the way on gender and diversity balance with initiatives like the 30% Club, the nation's academic and intellectual community trails in its wake. We cannot afford to be wasting talent. Nor can we ignore having out of date operational processes, which unwittingly discriminate against people.

So, UEB, senior staff and RUSU have been putting in place the foundations for what we need to do as an institution.

First, we have appointed ‘UEB Champions' for each of the protected areas set out in the 2010 Equality Act. Diversity is a core part of our business - and as Board members we will be fully accountable for driving cultural and structural changes across the institution.

Second, UEB has established a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy Group, led by Professor Dianne Berry OBE - Dean of Postgraduate Research Studies.

Dianne will report to UEB by the end of term with suggestions on robust targets and ideas for transforming some of our processes and ways of working. The Group is focusing on three priority areas - greater gender balance; greater race and ethnicity diversity; and a more inclusive culture for sexual orientation.

Gender Balance

We want talented women to rise top of the institution and to close the gender pay gap.

We have created the Women@Reading network - expanding the Aurora Women's Leadership Development Programme and Springboard Women's Development Programme; appointed more female Heads of School - 38% of Heads of School will be female in 2015/16 up from 23% in 2014/15 ; and rolled out an training programme to tackle unconscious bias, based on Professor Tricia Riddell's research.

It is clear we need to do more. Our Athena SWAN Bronze accreditation, which promotes women in science, technology and engineering, has been renewed for the next 12 months -  but the judging panel made crystal clear we need to make big improvements across the institution before resubmitting for accreditation next year. 

Sexual orientation

We want to create a culture of open dialogue on sexual orientation with a zero-tolerance to homophobia, transphobia and biphobia. The Equality report shows that only 32.57% of the staff community disclose their sexual orientation via Employee Self Service.

We launched LGBT Plus in June 2014 - a staff support network for individuals identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.  The University is also now a Stonewall Diversity Champion - and is now rated 179 out of 397 organisations in Stonewall's Workplace Index. Stonewall is the UK's leading campaigner for sexual equality and will give us a huge amount of support in our future plans.



We want to build a diverse institution, where all staff regardless of ethnicity or nationality have an equal opportunity to progress.

The University is now one of 30 institutions taking part in a national trial for the new Race Equality Charter Mark - pulling together a number of smaller discrete projects related to issues of ethnicity, faith and culture. This is an important step in creating a university-wide strategy. We hear if we will be accredited in July.


Next Steps

Real change will take time and will not happen overnight. We need to see big structural and cultural shifts within the University. But the case for change is unarguable. We have a diverse community and must do more to ensure that all students and employees fulfil their full potential and talent.

In the meantime I would like to make two requests:

  • Please come to the Ask the Board events, week starting Monday 18 May. These will focus on diversity and inclusion, assessing where we are and next steps. We need your intelligent, constructive insight and input to tackle these issues to get our plans right. I ask you to come; have your say; and challenge myself and UEB on what needs to be done.
  • Please update your personal information on the Employee Self Service. This is a critical element in monitoring the impact of equality and diversity policies, as well as helping us to identify underrepresented groups of staff to drive activity. It has never been easier to update your personal information - simply log in Employee Self Service, select the ‘Personal' tab along the top of the screen and then ‘Sensitive Information'. Your information will automatically be updated.

Thank you for your attention and for your continued support,


Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor, KCB


Further information


Read more about our commitment to diversity and inclusion

Read more about Ask the Board 





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